Friday, March 30, 2018

God dies

Picture from LatinTimes


‘You’re so powerless, Pilate,’ Jesus thought as he stood in the praetorium.  The prefect of Caesar had washed his hands off his responsibility to uphold the truth. 

‘What is truth?’ he had asked.

He did not wait for an answer.  Jesus was not going to answer him anyway.  He knew as well as Pilate that definitions were not what mattered to either of them.  ‘I am the truth,’ Jesus had said many times.  ‘You are the truth,’ he would have told Pilate, ‘if you wish to be.’ 

‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ The crowd outside the praetorium clamours louder and louder.  Being very religious, they have not entered the praetorium.  The praetorium is a pagan place and Yahweh’s chosen people should not enter pagan places on the Passover day lest they be defiled.

The High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas, instigated the people by wielding their religious power.  Jesus had set the axe at the very root of their religion.  Their religion meant rubrics and rituals.  Jesus told them to dump those things.  Teach people to love.  That’s the only religion: love.  Everything else will follow once people learn to love.  Compassion will follow.  Goodness will.  Truth too. 

The priests do not want love, compassion, goodness, truth.  They want rubrics and rituals.  They want power. That’s what you want too, Pilate: power.  I saw your knees shaking when these people said, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.’  You know very well, Pilate, that these people are playing a game.  They shout, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’  But you know that they detest Caesar more than Caesar detests them.  Right now they want my death because they think I’m decimating their religion.  The priests made them believe that. It is very easy to make people believe such things because they really don’t want love and truth and such things.  They want power.  The priest loves his power over his flock.  The chief priests love their power over the priests and the people under those priests.  The High Priest loves his power over everyone.  You love your power over all of them, Pilate.  You are all in love with power.  Yes, safeguard your power, Pilate, by bowing to their wish. Otherwise they will ask Caesar to decimate you.  To avoid a political turmoil from a people whom Caesar detests the most, he will grant their demand and decimate you.  Save your power, Pilate.  Send me to the cross that they have already prepared for me.  I love that cross now.  It will liberate me from myself, from my heart that cannot let love be buried beneath an ossified heap of rubrics and rituals. 

‘Behold the man!’ Pilate brought Jesus out.  The man looked terribly pathetic.  Pilate had asked his soldiers to scourge him.  The soldiers revelled in that job.  They loved to scourge people.  It intoxicated them.  Every lash of the whip on a helpless man’s flesh rose like a froth of frenzy in the soldiers’ veins.  They loved it.  They relished it especially when one of them brought a ring of thorns and fixed it on Jesus’ head and mocked him saying, ‘Ah, there! Now you look like a king.  The King of Jews. Ha ha ha.’

‘Behold the man!’ The sight of the man with whiplashes all over his body and blood-spattered face intoxicated the people.  ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’  Pilate was disillusioned.  He had thought that the sight would arouse pity.

That’s what I told you, Pilate.  I belong to the cross.  I embrace the cross happily in order to save my heart.


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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Driving lessons



I realise that driving has lost its charm for me.  The last few days have me driving for over an hour from seven in the morning in order to reach the place where I have been assigned a job related to my regular work.  I reach back home at 6 in the evening driving the same route back. 

There was a time when bike riding was a passion for me.  I loved to glide along the mountain tracks of Meghalaya just for the fun of it.  When I shifted to Delhi, riding ceased to be fun.  Delhi roads make people mad.  There are too many vehicles on the roads and all of them are in a hurry.  Many of them are plain crazy too.  I never enjoyed the rides in that crazy city of insane drivers and riders though I never became the target of any road rage which was ubiquitous on Delhi’s teeming roads.  

I thought a car drive through the roads in Kerala flanked by lush greenery would be fun.  No way, as I learnt now.  You can never afford to look away from the windshield.  You don’t know when a vehicle is going to enter from a side road or a biker is going to overtake you through the little space he manages to discover between your vehicle and the one coming from the opposite direction.  Then there are the Kerala State Transport buses which bulldoze through the road with a hubris that is characteristic to the department.  When you move out of the main road to the rural ones, potholes welcome you with gaping glees.  You have no chance of even enjoying the music played on your system.

I will have to put up with this terror for another seven or eight days more.  I’m grateful to my stars that my regular workplace is just 4 km from home.  A 5-minute drive can be quite a delight.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

More face and less feelings

Image from Pinterest


Like all adolescents, I too loved to stand in front of the mirror and admire myself.  As an adolescent, I thought I was the most handsome boy in the world.  Like most people, I outgrew that phase.  Mirror has now become redundant in my life.  Well, almost.  I still need it for trimming my grey beard.

Selfies belong to adolescence, I think.  It is natural for adolescents to think that they are the centre of the universe, that everyone in the world is watching them and admiring them.  When adolescents put up their selfies in social media, there is nothing unnatural. 

If people like me, whose autumn leaves have started dropping, are obsessed with selfies, then there is a problem.  I can’t even use my mobile phone to take a selfie properly. My hand will tremble and the phone will fall off most probably.  Even if it didn’t, I wouldn’t dare to take selfies.  I know that I am not the centre of the universe.

I admire selfies sometimes.  But most of them don’t appeal to me because there is more face and little feelings in them.  There is too much self-obsession for them to be of any aesthetic merit.  What is a picture good for without the aesthetics?

Probably, selfies are a reflection of the contemporary culture which has made people a lot more self-obsessed than is good for them.  I have a Prime Minister who is ten years older than me but has not overcome his obsession with himself.  I wonder whether too many Indians have taken him as their role model when it comes to selfies at least. 

Selfies are harmless, nevertheless, in a country from where more and more people are escaping carrying with them whole bank repositories. 

PS. Written for IndiSpire Edition 214: #SelfieCrazy

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Cloud



No, I don’t want to walk with you,
I’m sorry,
I want to walk with the cloud up there,
the dark, looming, vaporous mass.

I can smile at you,
laugh at your jokes,
help you with the work,
but that’s quite all.

I want to walk with the cloud up there
and become shapeless and massless
and melt into a great sorrow
that descends to dissolve into the dirt
that I’ve smiled at and laughed at
and helped create.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Phone Call and a Destiny



Some phone calls are ominous.  There was a time when I used to dread them.  Mercifully they are very rare.  They come from someone or the other associated with an institution of which I was a member for ten years of my youth.  Though I bid final adieu to the institution somewhere down the line, the institution took a diabolic interest in haunting me throughout my life and making as much a mess of it as it could. 

Image from ArtStation
When the call came today, I ignored it as I often do with unknown numbers. But when the call was repeated a few hours later, I answered it.  As soon as I heard the connections mentioned by the caller, I knew I was doomed.  It meant that they are going to mess up my life now that I have brought some order to it after I dealt with a protracted depression and the concomitant downsides of it.

A couple of days back, ‘destiny’ cropped up in a discussion in a class I was taking. I told my students that I never believed in ‘destiny’ as a young man.  I narrated how I questioned Thomas Hardy’s fatalist vision as delineated in The Mayor of Casterbridge.  As an undergrad student, I wrote my essay on the novel ascribing Michael Henchard’s (the protagonist of the novel) failures to his character.  It was his fault that he lost his wife and child in a frenzy of drunkenness.  It was his fault that he didn’t sustain his love for Lucetta.  His fault again that he lost his step-daughter 18 years later.  Whose fault else is it that he turns to drinking once again?  And so on.  I put the entire blame on Henchard.

But – I continued my class – as an older man now, having gone through a life of failure after failure, I know better.  I know that Hardy became a neo-classical writer not for nothing: his vision of the world and human life in it has its relevance.  Destiny does play a role in our life, a major one at that.  You can be a Mayor today and a buffoon tomorrow.  Destiny is Shakespeare’s gods to whom we are “as flies to wanton boys… they kill us for their sport.”

I have described myself as the “Joker in the pack” in my Facebook profile.  That’s what the particular institution made me.  I hope to continue my entertainment.
Asking Destiny what its motive is like asking Shakespeare’s boys why they play with the flies.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Arvind Kejriwal’s Apologies



Is Arvind Kejriwal a symbol of the increasing effeteness of truth?  He has been issuing apology after apology, the latest being to Nitin Gadkari.  Earlier he apologised to Bikram Singh Majithia.  Along with Manish Sisodia, he apologised to Kapil Sibal’s son Amit Sibal.  The offended are accepting the apologies with surprising promptness.  There are 30 more defamation cases against Kejriwal.  So are we going to get 30 more apologies and 30 more prompt acceptances?

It is understandable that Mr Kejriwal does not wish to waste his time on court cases.  He says he wants to devote his time to more fruitful administrative activities.  That’s fine.  The people need those services and not court entertainments. 

But the promptness with which the offended people accept the apologies raise our suspicions.  Is truth being buried facilely with each apology?  Do the apologies and their prompt acceptances mean that it is not easy to defend the truth in today’s India? 

Is it Kejriwal’s defeat or is it the defeat of truth itself?


Monday, March 19, 2018

Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge



Hi Friend,

“April is the cruellest month,” T. S. Eliot declared, “breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land…”  April is my summer break.  I’m going to celebrate it with a lot of writing, “stirring (certain) dull roots with spring rain.”  Daily blogging is one of those challenges.  ‘One of’ implies that I have taken up another challenge too.  That will be revealed towards the end of April.  This is to comply with Blogchatter: reveal the theme of my AtoZ posts. 



I wrote a few days back that “My A2Z may begin with Abracadabra and end on a magical Zenith.”  Yes, the theme of my AtoZ posts is: Life’s Magic. It can be read as:
1.     Life is Magic
2.     Life has Magic
3.     The Magic of Life

The first post will indeed be titled Abracadabra and the last Zenith.  Abracadabra starts off the magic.  I hope to take you to the Zenith of a magic mountain by the time we reach the end of April.  I’m not the wizard, however.  You will be the wizard with your own magic wand, your own magic spells.  Here is my invitation to you to Life’s Magic.


Like a boy



There’s a part of me that stopped growing somewhere at adolescence.  That part emerged very strongly the other day when I visited a Park as part of the staff tour from school.  I found myself cycling round in the Park with the passion of a young boy.

I was touching a cycle after a gap of some three decades.  When I was an undergrad student at St Albert’s College in Kochi in the early eighties, I was an ardent cyclist.  I went to college by cycle.  Whenever there was free time in between due to the absence of a lecturer, I cycled to the Ernakulam Public Library which was over a kilometre away from college .  When college was over, my cycling came to an end.

Cycling has a unique gracefulness as I realised once again recently, decades after college.  The cycle needs very little space and you can manoeuvre it through almost anywhere.  It just swans along with an unassuming poise letting the breeze waft straight on your face.  It doesn’t pollute air with the exhaust of engines or sound of horns.  On the other hand, it invigorates you with renewed strength as you cross the milestones on the wayside.

It made me feel like a boy once again.  I don’t mind enjoying that feeling again and again. 


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Are Paper ballots the answer?



The Congress has asked the Election Commission to return to paper ballots since the EVMs have chosen to be Every Vote for Modi.  While the paper ballots may exorcise the spectre thrown up by the deus ex machina, will it help the Congress?

The real tragedy of the country is that it offers no respectable alternative to the craftiness of the Modi-Shah combo.  Rahul Gandhi has grown up in the last couple of years but is still a dwarf beside the colossal images of the crafty combo.  All others of any significance are mere local patriarchs with no national appeal. 

Moreover, instead of fighting the communal card played by the BJP and its allies, the Congress is also showing communal fangs when required.  It has always been an opportunistic party from the time of Indira Gandhi when it comes to religious sentiments.  It kept on appeasing certain sections of the country’s population merely for the sake of winning votes.  The appeasements really achieved nothing more than votes for the party; the people’s living standards did not improve.  At best, a few corrupt leaders of the different communities benefitted by the Congress policies.  Corruption became the hallmark of the party in every sense of the term.  The party leaders became corrupt and it corrupted many others too. 

Hence the people of India voted for the Party with a Difference.  Unfortunately that party proved to be worse with the radical communalisation of the country into the Saffron Brigade versus antinational theme.  Worse, the party has seeped into every major national institution.  It has begun to corrode the secular fabric of the nation.  If the Party with a Difference comes to power again in 2019, which is very likely in spite of the recent setbacks in the UP-Bihar by-elections, India will cease to be India.  It will become Hindustan.  The entire history of the country from pre-historic times will be rewritten in an unbelievably short span.  Communities of people will be wiped out in mob lynching and sporadic arson. 

There is no alternative apparently.  But  despair is not a solution.  Maybe we need to take a leaf out of the Aam Aadmi Party’s experience in Delhi.  The people of Delhi chose to give their mandate to Arvind Kejriwal in spite of his initial bungling.  He is doing wonders in that state bringing free electricity and free water to the deserving.  He has made government hospitals and schools exemplary.  He brought excellent governance without making undue fuss about it, without spending crores of the taxpayer’s money on blowing his own trumpet.  Maybe, India should give a chance to Rahul Gandhi now, especially now that many of the corrupt Congressmen have already joined the BJP.  Maybe, Rahul will indeed be a much better alternative.



Friday, March 16, 2018

Dreams on Meadows

A view from the Watchtower at the place


Nestled in the lap of nature, Mango Meadows at Kaduthuruthy in Kerala offers a unique experience with its glimpses into the traditional plants and agricultural practices of the state.  It is branded as “Agriculture theme park.”  Like most contemporary ads, it seeks to rope in children with the professed intention of making them familiar with varieties of plants that are on the verge of extinction. 

It is a commercial venture, however.  Like all commercial ventures, it has to keep on modifying the professed goals and objectives if it has to be commercially viable, let alone successful.  The entrepreneur behind this venture must be a dreamer.  I’m glad he created the Garden of Eden too in the little available area.  He has brought as many species of fruit trees as possible in a little space.  They are all hybrid plants, however.  New Gen plants for the New Gen children. 

But no children were found appreciating any of that.  Who expects children to walk through a foot-wide path to see bushy specimens of lab-manufactured fruit trees struggling to grow in a congested crowd like an ugly mass in a political rally?  No, the entrepreneur behind this is not a poetic dreamer.  He is a corporate dreamer.  The corporate style is palpably visible in the Meadows without meadows.

There are no meadows in Mango Meadows.  There are just commercial stalls with nice labels and nicer exhortations.  It is better to forget the theme and enjoy what the commerce offers: cycling and boating, shooting and archery, swimming or relaxing in the cosy niches.

This is a new venture.  I’m sure the creator of this is still struggling with an identity crisis that is torn between tradition and modernity, between agriculture and technology. 

I found my enjoyment in cycling.  I went around cycling most of the time on the tessellated paths that wind through the entire complex which has a pristine look in spite of the modernity that is lingering in every corner waiting for the opportunity to pounce like a predator.

The place lies between Kottayam and Ernakulam (about 40 km from each place).  If you have your own vehicle, it is accessible and the road leading to it is very rural and narrow.  If you are looking for a tourist place with a difference, Mango Meadows is quite advisable.  It provides accommodation too though at a very high price.  Much of it is still under construction and so the accommodation part right now is not recommended.  The staff are very professional and hence you will get good services, as good as they can get in a place that is struggling to grow up into gigantic though impractical dream.

The Garden of Eden
Niche for Valentines
Personal Delight


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Country roads, take me home



When I left Delhi for my village in Kerala three years ago, a friend remarked that I would not last more than a year in the village.  I quipped, “You’ve given me a whole year!  I’ve given myself only 6 months.”

I never thought I would fit in my village.  The fact is I haven’t – not in the usual sense.  I live as solitary a life as possible in the village and the people are apparently happy to leave me alone.  My fear was precisely how much solitude would be granted me.  As I’m completing three years of my existence in this village, I’m more than pleased with the whole-hearted cooperation of people in leaving me to myself.

The plain truth is that there are no villages in Kerala.  Villages have undergone much change with most people living alone in their big houses, some of which look palatial, travelling by their own private vehicles, and mostly avoiding meddling with other people’s affairs.  In addition to all that is the fairly large migrant population in the villages.  There are people from Bengal (both West Bengal and Bangladesh) as well as a few other North Indian states even in my small village.  There are hundreds of them in the place where I go to work everyday which is also a village though it looks like a small town with its infrastructural developments.

One of the things that I would have loved in the village is a more peaceful atmosphere, a slower existence than what I’m actually getting.  Everyone seems to be in a hurry like in cities.  Everyone rushes at the topmost speed possible on these narrow roads.  Some of the narrow roads are being widened into state highways.  The rate at which development is rushing into my village alarms me.  Where do I go now? 

Occasionally I go for a ride on certain interior roads which have almost no traffic.  I love the languid vacantness on those country roads through villages which are apparently more remote than mine, much more pristine at least.  I find myself humming with John Denver, “Country roads, take me home / To the place I belong.”


Monday, March 12, 2018

Kiss-curls of history


Fiction

“History is as shifty as the kiss-curl that moves so seductively across your cheek in the fan’s breeze,” He said running his finger gently on her cheek.

Outside the hotel room, the Sarayu continued to flow listlessly.

“Is your research coming to an end?” she asked.

“Well, almost.  It’s not research really,” he paused. “I wanted to have a feel of this place.  For a novel that I’m writing.  Ayodhya of Rama and Sita finds an appearance.”

“Is this the Ayodhya of Rama and Sita?” She asked that more to herself than to him.

“For the novel’s purpose, yes.  Otherwise the Sarayu mentioned in the ancient scriptures could very well be the Hari-Rud flowing through Afghanistan, Iran and Turkmenistan.”

“I knew you’d come out with something like that,” she said.  “You were always like that.  In the class too.”

“The names of rivers mentioned in scriptures can be very deceptive,” he said ignoring her mention of the class.  “The Buddhist scripture, Samyutta Nikaya, has a verse which goes thus: ‘Once Lord Buddha was walking in Ayodhya on the bank of the Ganga river.’”

“Oh, yet another Ayodhya!”

“Needn’t be.  Another verse of the same scripture reads, ‘Once Lord Buddha was walking in Kaushambi on the bank of the Ganga river.’ But Kaushambi is on the bank of the Yamuna.”

“Kiss-curls of history!”  She giggled.

The giggles brought him memories that he did not wish to revive.  In fact, he didn’t want to meet her at all.  She had seen his Facebook status update from Ayodhya and contacted.  “I’m in Lucknow,” she said on phone.  “Practising the MBA theories.”

“I thought you studied literature,” he said.

“Yeah, first that, bewitched by you.  Then I became more practical and went on to do MBA.  So I have a job now.”

“Why didn’t you marry?” he asked when they met.

“Is love a tender thing?  It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and …”

“… it pricks like thorn.” He concluded the lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  “Like history, in fact.”

“History and love,” she giggled again. 

Oh, no! He wished to tell her.  Don’t giggle like that.  

“Did Babur demolish a temple to construct his masjid here?” She asked.

“Most probably, no. There’s no mention of any such demolition in contemporary literature.  Baburnama does not mention anything.  Ain-i-Akbar does not.  Not even Tulsidas gives any hint.”

“I read somewhere that the demolition theory was first mooted by some British academics,” she became serious.

“That’s quite possible.  Academic excess more than divide-and-rule aspirations in all probability.”

“Nothing is quite certain, right?” 

“Except this kiss-curl that tantalises.”

“Tantalisations of history.”

“Hmm.”

The fan went on whirring above them.








Friday, March 9, 2018

Bloodstains in the snow



“Words fail me, Clio.  How did you track me down, did I leave bloodstains in the snow?”

Whenever someone tells me to leave the past and live in the present, I am reminded of the above-quoted opening lines of John Banville’s novella, The Newton Letter.  The past will track you down even if you don’t leave bloodstains on the granite pavements you plodded on. The past can be a vindictive ghost especially if you haven’t managed to achieve something which the world of mediocre people perceive as success.  Mediocrity has a peculiar knack for sniffing bloodstains in snow.

The solution is not trying to live in the present.  The solution is not erasing the past.  The solution is keeping the mediocre as far away from you as possible.

The world belongs to the mediocre.  There is no real escape from them.  But you can keep a safe distance.

If you have political power, you can erase the past.  You can create new history.  Heroes become villains and vice versa.  Criminals have become saints in such rewritten history.  Saints have become criminals too.  Idols can be pulled down from their pedestals at any time and be replaced with new idols.  It all depends on which variety of mediocrity is on the ascendance.  

The ideal is to live in the present, in the here-and-now.  It is not impossible to do that provided you know how to sacrifice some of your convictions and principles.  Make compromises with mediocrity. 

Words fail me.  Compromises lie beyond the purview of the skills taught me by life.  The past was a failure.  Hence the present is doomed to fail.  And there is no future.  I have learnt to smile, Clio.  The smile belongs to the present.  That’s my only achievement.

PS. Written for IndiSpire Edition 212:  #followpresent

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rice bag




One of the new nicknames I’ve earned on social media is ‘Rice bag’.  The Sanghis use that name for any South Indian who questions the Sangh views and outlooks.  I think so.  But when it comes to Sanghis it is impossible to say what exactly they mean by anything.  The most fundamental characteristic of a Sanghi is utter lack of humour as well as imagination.

If you laugh when a Sanghi tells you that Ganesha’s trunk was the first case of plastic surgery in the history of medical science, the Sanghi will call you a Rice bag.  You can’t laugh when he thinks he is serious.  If you express an opinion that goes against the tenets and creeds of the Modified Sangh, the Sanghi will call you a Rice bag. 

You may wonder what rice or bag has got to do with all these?  Nothing. It is only the Sanghi way of telling you that they have no imagination to call you anything else other than by the place you belong to, or the food you eat, or the dress you wear.  I become a Rice bag in Sanghi lexicon, just because I belong to a region of the country where people eat rice more than wheat.  What has that got to do with my views on religion and politics?  Nothing.  But the Sanghi won’t understand that.

The Sanghi won’t won’t understand also that by their logic even the Sanghis in South India should be labelled Rice bags since they also eat more rice than wheat.  But don’t expect such logical thinking from Sanghis, of all people.

What I don’t understand at all is why Sanghis insist on making every Indian eat what the Sanghis eat, wear what Sanghis wear, think what Sanghis think, believe what Sanghis believe, and so son, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.  Why can’t India be a nation of diversity and plurality as it has always been until petty minds took charge in Delhi in 2014? 

Even if the Sanghis hold me against the barrel of a gun and tell me to accept their mythical heroes as the ultimate truths, I won’t accept that.  I respect my intellect, bhais.  Convince me logically and intelligently, if not scientifically, if you want me to take you seriously.  Otherwise you can call me whatever you like but I will reserve my right to laugh in your face.  Take away my laughter, if you can.  I challenge you.